Subject: biography, earth science
German mineralogist who pioneered mining technology.
Born in Glauchau in Saxony, Agricola trained in medicine first in Leipzig and later in Italy. He served for many years as town physician in Joachimstal. Involvement with the medicinal use of minerals sparked his curiosity about the products of the Earth, and he soon developed an interest in the local mining ventures. Agricola quickly made himself an authority on mining, metal extraction, smelting, assaying, and related chemical processes. His The Nature of Fossils (1546) advances one of the first comprehensive classifications of minerals. Familiar with previous writers on mining like Bermannus, Agricola went on to explore the origins of rocks, mountains, and volcanoes. His most renowned work, On Metals/De Re Metallica (1556) is an indispensable survey, lavishly illustrated with woodcuts, of the smelting and chemical technology of the time and of the state of the mining industry. Drawing intelligently upon the Pirotechnia of the Italian Vannucio Biringuccio, Agricola's work became a standard text, being translated into Italian and German.
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